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- Vietnam Jeep Tours
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Dalat Travel GuideIf you are looking for a change of pace and seeking some respite from the heat on the coast then head straight to Dalat. Located 300 kilometers north of Saigon at the southern tip of the central highlands, the “Sapa of the South” is a totally different world from the rest of Vietnam. Dalat is 1.5kms above sea level which means it has a unique climate, compared to the rest of Vietnam (typically 18-25 °C), which allows locals to cultivate fresh vegetables, amazing coffee and tea, and an incredibly wide variety of flora. The stunning natural scenery of the region, coupled with the quirky locals and artisans, as well as its reputation as the honeymoon capital of Vietnam, make Dalat a town not to be missed.
Dalat, meaning the ‘river of the Lat people’, is a romantic getaway for Vietnamese. Upon arrival you will undoubtedly see tandem bicycles, young university students and cozy couples all blending into the scenery to help give this town a lovely air of old-school romance. However there’s plenty of action (of an entirely savoury variety) just outside of the city too! Countless wonderful excursions to fill your days including visits to traditional local minority villages, cycling through nearby pine forests and abseiling down pristine waterfalls. Dalat makes for a great two or three day visit and will help give you a refreshing understanding of the Vietnamese people and landscape.
Dalat was, until only 150 years ago, a land of hill tribes and wild pristine forests filled with tigers, elephants and rhinoceros. This all changed in the early part of the 20th Century when the French established a hill station here as a retreat for those who worked in the sweltering heat of Saigon. The town also served to help oversee and control the tea and coffee plantations nearby. The last Nguyen Emperor, Bao Dai, in the 1920’s and 30’s, built palaces here so he could relax and hunt – a golf course was even built – and soon Dalat developed into the welcoming town it is today.Dalat is all about taking a break from the crazy, helter-skelter pace which has been chasing you through most of the major centers in Vietnam. If you feel like all you’ve seen in Vietnam is 100,000 motorbikes, busy streets and relentless construction in a drive to modernize, you may need a time-out from all of that. Dalat could be just for you.
Dalat is such a change that many tourists who have flown in from Saigon or Hanoi have had to be reminded that they are not, in fact, in an entirely different country! The landscape is different, as are the people, the cuisine, the pace of life … even the air is fresh! Beyond all of this Dalat is a great base for checking out many of the nearby attractions including waterfalls, national parks, minority villages and for the historians out there the legacy of the French influence in Indochina can be seen through the old and kitsch French architecture.
Dalat's specific sights are pine wood (forming the name: "City of thousands of pine trees") with twisting roads and tree marigold blossom in the winter. The city's temperate weather stands in contrast to Vietnam's otherwise tropical climate. Mist covering the valleys almost year-round leads to its name "City of eternal spring."
Make sure you go to the Da Lat market. It's centrally located in a concrete multi-level building. You'll get a real appreciation for the variety of food that is grown in the area. There are a few craft shops in the area.
The train station, Ga Da Lat (Gare Dalat), was built in the late 1930s and is typical of the period. Trains run on-demand to the nearby village of Trai Mat where you can see the Linh Phuoc Pagoda, right, and enjoy the pastoral scenes on the short trip.
There are several nearby pagodas that are worth a visit, and this is where your guided taxi or Honda Om trip really pays off. You can visit the Linh Phong Pagoda and the Thien Vuong Pagoda (with its wooden pillars and huge Buddha statue).
The waterfalls are south of Dalat and are certainly worth a trip. The two main ones are Datanla Falls and Prenn Waterfall. The $10-$20 Honda Om/Taxi tours will include these sights. The Prenn Waterfall is by far the more impressive, but the steep hike up to the Datanla Falls is exhilarating and the surrounding forest is impressive.
Best time to go to Dalat:
Without a doubt the best time of year to visit Dalat is during the annual flower festival which usually falls in December or early January. The 2010 festival runs from January 1st – 4th. Dalat is a wonderful place to visit most of the year, however during the local rainy season (April to November) you may find Dalat more dreary than otherwise. Having said that even in the wet season Dalat is still enjoyable in the mornings. Typically at the end of summer (around March), Dalat is dry, not as green as usual, which can spoil the impression of the town for some visitors.
There are daily flights to both Hanoi and Saigon. Bus connections are also available to Saigon, (6-9 hours), Nha Trang (4-5 hours), Mui Ne (6-7 hours) and Hoi An (10-12 hours.) There is a local train but this only runs a short distance to the Linh Phuoc pagoda and returns along the same track. If you are interested in the train trip keep in mind that the train only runs when there are enough passengers so inquire at your hotel, or at any of the tour agencies in town, for possible departures.